Millionaire who refused to let polio put her down

Damaris Muthoni. She got a polio attack while in Class Three but went ahead to work her way into a millionaire.

Photo credit: Mwangi Muiruri | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Damaris Muthoni was diagnosed with polio at the age of nine.
  • She confesses that she has encountered stigma in her life journey, which even affected her love life.
  • She established a tailoring shop in Maragua town and by 2007, she had joined the millionaires’ club.

If Damaris Muthoni had a choice, she would have altered the events that marked her life in 1982, when she was in Class Three.

“We were out playing when I developed this numbness on my left leg…It refused to move and I sat down…The discomfort wouldn’t go away…I could not feel my leg. My teachers asked two Class Six girls to carry me home,” she remembers.

Two days later, it was apparent her condition was deteriorating.

“I was taken to Murang’a Level Five Hospital where after initial diagnosis, I was admitted. The hospital would be my home for the next six months after it emerged that I was dead from waist down,” she says.

She was referred to Kenyatta National Hospital where she stayed for six years. She had suffered a polio attack. During the hospital stay, she regained some life but her legs had been affected.

After the six and a half years in hospital and at the age of 15, she came back home, a disabled teenager. Her education pursuit, however, remained intact.

She spent another year at home learning how to walk with a stick since her right leg was completely dead. She went back to Class Three and completed Class Eight when she was 20 years old. She was then admitted to Gatanga Girls Secondary School.

By the time she was leaving high school, she was already consensually pregnant. She gave birth to her firstborn son in 1996.


“When my son was three years old, I was taken into a rehabilitation centre for the disabled in Muriranja’s Centre in Kiharu Sub-county where for one and a half years, I learned dressmaking and tailoring,” she narrates.

Ms Muthoni confesses that she has encountered stigma in her life journey, which even affected her love life.

“I noted that men were unwilling to commit to me as a human being capable of being loved and loving back… I took stock of that realisation and discovered that I was alone in the vast wilderness of self-satisfaction in many fronts. Sadly, I learnt that I was my only source of happiness and if I desired stability, I had to work hard for it,” she says.

She was 30 years old when she ventured into the job market.

“The rehabilitation centre had given me a brand new sewing machine, a capital of Sh10,000, Sh3,000 for being the best in hygiene, and Sh2,000 for being the overall disciplined girl for the duration of the course. I graduated with Grade I and III in dressmaking and tailoring, respectively,” she says.

She went back to Maragua town and leased out her sewing machine to an established tailoring shop for Sh50 per day.

Financially successful

“The owner of the tailoring shop also employed me as an assistant, paying me Sh100 per day. That was good money that afforded me to move from my Kianjiru-ini home village to a rental house … there was no doubt that I was made for greatness,” she says.

She opened a savings account and decided to make friends with only financially successful women in her neighbourhood.

“That is how I was introduced to the world of buying and selling shares and foreign currency. I would buy shares and sell them for a profit…I would buy dollars when at low prices and sell them off once exchange rate shifted to profitable margins…It was like a game…By 2005, I had watched in disbelief as my bank balance read Sh800,000,” she says.

She established her tailoring shop in Maragua town and by 2007, she had joined the millionaires’ club.

“I knew my God was with me. My advisers told me fat bank accounts were for fools…that I had to risk in investments. I had a relative who dealt in motor vehicle brokerage. It is through the association that I bought my first public service vehicle in 2009 for Sh580,000, disposing it a year later after it had fetched me a Sh1 million,” she says.

She used the cash to buy three taxis and a pick up, and also ventured into selling ripe bananas to supermarkets and institutions.

Government entities

“Along this journey, I had conceived a second time and decided that the two sons were enough for me. I concentrated on giving them the best a mother can afford. I am not ashamed that they are doing well in life,” she says.

Today, Ms Muthoni has bought herself a piece of land and built a permanent house, ventured into poultry and horticulture farming. She is also in contracting where through the affirmative action, she supplies a variety of government entities.

“I am an independent disabled single mother who refused to say die, put my mental strength forward, and decided to work for my bills. I intend to launch a charitable foundation where people living with disability will be coached on financial management to guide them into self-reliance instead of waiting to be helped,” she says.